Backlog: Candy Saga Edition

Image courtesy Chris Vandyck

Image courtesy Chris Vandyck

There was always one kid in grade school that was entitled. He or she wasn't the primary bully in my experience, but an ancillary character who just plain annoyed the whole class with their sense of superiority. Parents of these tiny trolls probably coddled them and inflated their impressionable egos.

In so many ways King, the developer behind the depressingly popular hit Candy Crush Saga, is acting like one of these entitled little brats. This week King went on the offensive, pushing their legal weight around on all games named "candy" or "saga." It's ridiculous, to be blunt. I can only imagine King's parents told them they were "the prettiest in school."

But what would the Internet be without sarcastic retaliation? King's aggressiveness inspired a "Candy Jam," which pokes fun at the litigious insanity of the situation by, what else, making dozens of games with "candy" and "saga" in the title. Whether this does anything to change King's stance (and, to be fair, intellectual property is a complex beast) is doubtful. Affected developers like Stoic, who recently released The Banner Saga, are the voices who may make a difference if this goes to court.

It's another light week for our staff. We've all been busy, as adults usually are. Enjoy the Backlog! -- Aaron Thayer

Brit

Backlog-BS2-Brit.png

Between writing assignments and working on my book (cough, currently seeking representation, cough), I found sometime to move forward on a game I’ve been meaning to try for a long time: the infamous Bioshock 2.

My Bioshock fandom is well-known by now, but I’ve long avoided this entry in the series because I knew how poorly it was received. It’s held up as an example of the folly of sharing a franchise with a beta version of yourself. And if the founder walks away, the result can't be good. It’s the depressed middle child of the series, surrounded by favorites both older and younger than itself.

But the halo of fandom proved powerful: I’m finding a bunch to like about this game, in spite of its reputation. I just have to play against everything the game tells me to do. Instead of playing directly with the plot, I do Little Sister chores and fill-in plot quests in the meantime. I hack every bit of machinery that comes my way. I rarely use the drill, and the spear gun even less. And forget that new research camera tool. That thing has no purpose.

I’m having fun. But I know I’m making excuses for a game that was panned. There are a lot of problems with this game: inconsistent graphics, a paper-thin plot and contrived challenge among them. But I get to come back to Rapture and see what happened after after its fall. I feel more pity for the genetically mutated splicers than ever before. There’s fungi everywhere, and a cult leader preaching compassion is more influential than perhaps Andrew Ryan ever was.

Bioshock 2 isn’t nearly as well-crafted as its older and younger siblings. But I’m starting to think that playing it is necessary if you want to truly understand the lore of the series. “World-building” has become a buzzword over the last 15 years of game design. And you can’t deny the ugly world that Rapture has become in the eyes of this forgotten child.

Doug

Surprisingly enough, Dante encounters this big guy quite early in DmC. If this is an early boss…yikes.

Surprisingly enough, Dante encounters this big guy quite early in DmC. If this is an early boss…yikes.

Ahh. After a long stretch of being too busy to sit down and dig into something new, I took time last weekend to avoid the sunlight and become a hermit for a day. I took the chance to begin DmC: Devil May Cry, which is a fantastic, fun romp of an action game. I never was a huge fan of the initial Japanese-made DMC titles, so I wasn’t set against the title like some fans of the series seemed to be. But I was really impressed with how the opening two chapters of the game unfolded, and also pretty astounded at just how many collectibles and side items I missed during those missions. It’s pretty clear I haven’t played this kind of game in a while!

From there I then spent about six hours on the high seas in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Speaking of “it’s good to be home,” it’s great to have an Assassin’s Creed title that isn’t the stink-bomb that Assassin's Creed III became. And for the record, for me the problem with ACIII wasn’t the story or setting but the jerky-jerky “loading screen to walking 10 feet to another loading screen and then a cutscene before walking 10 more feet” pacing. Plus the strictness of failing missions. And the protagonist was a walking ball of teenage angst.

I feel like Assassin's Creed works better when it aims for the popcorn fare. ACIV has a hell of a great gimmick in the ship combat (and sea shanties!) but the rest of the gameplay is nice and smooth sailing up the difficulty curve -- Dark Souls it ain't. I've enjoyed the atmosphere and meta-narrative details that have been in the background of every Assassin's Creed title I played (and I'm enjoying hacking the hell out of my co-workers now), and I'm glad the pacing and gameplay matches up better again. And it's impossible to dislike Captain Edward Kenway. What a rogue.

You don't even have to ask if I'm still playing Gran Turismo 6Of course I'm still playing GT6. It's aging well -- when I nominated the game during our Game of the Year deliberations I had about half of the races unlocked, but now I've spent plenty of time at the top end of the game and much faster cars and I'm still challenged by and enjoying the action. I wish I could paint cars in a similar manner to what's available in the Forza Motorsport games, but that's a smaller gripe; the action and driving is great, and that's what matters. I'm to the S-class races, finally, and the difficulty has definitely increased. This is a good thing. Events and races also give away a good deal more prize money than when the game was released; this is also a very good thing. It's living up to the hopes I had before launch, and the dreams I had once I actually started the game in December.

I have a long list of titles still to play, but more on those next week. I sense another winter weekend curled up in front of the TV coming.